COVID-19 Update #11 From Representative Dykema

New Updates as of March 27th

Below is a summary of the most recent efforts to respond to the wide range of needs in our communities. For a summary of previously issued guidance and state restrictions related to the coronavirus epidemic, visit mass.gov/coronavirus. For previous updates visit carolyndykema.com/covid19.

Federal Stimulus Bill Passes

Today, the House of Representatives in Washington joined the Senate in passing the federal “CARES Act” COVID-19 stimulus package. Once signed by the President, this bill will provide expended federal supports for the unemployed and also includes a range of additional provisions to support the country through this difficult time. Representative Katherine Clark has provided my office with fact sheets on the legislation’s expanded benefits relative to unemployment compensation and supports for small businesses. There are still many questions about how these provisions of the new law, once signed by the President, will be implemented and how they will benefit individuals, businesses, states, and municipalities. I will send updates as more details become available. 

Resources for Residents Experiencing Job Loss or Loss of Income

COVID-19 is causing broad disruption to the economy which is affecting incomes of many residents and families. There are a number of state resources and supports available. 

Coronavirus Testing and Response

  • There are 3,240 confirmed positive cases of COVID-19 in the Commonwealth, with 288 hospitalizations and 35 deaths as of today at 4pm. 
  • Over 29,000 tests have been conducted by the State Public Health Laboratory and private testing organizations – a significant increase that reflects a large effort on the part of the state and private entities to increase testing
  • Beginning March 27, the Governor has instructed all travelers arriving to Massachusetts to self-quarantine for 14 days. 

 Health Care

  • To increase the capacity of the healthcare system, the Board of Registration in Medicine will now provide some medical school graduates with Emergency 90-Day Limited Licenses to practice medicine during the COVID-19 emergency. An order was also approved to expand the scope of work performed by Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRNs).
  • There’s a new online resource for residents to check their symptoms and connect with an appropriate health care resource, called Buoy Health. Buoy Health’s online 24/7 tool is free for Massachusetts residents and uses current COVID-19 guidance from the CDC and Massachusetts Department of Public Health.  Visit Buoy.com/mass.
  • The federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has approved Massachusetts’ 1135 waiver request to fast-track MassHealth enrollment, streamline administrative requirements for providers and better deliver critically needed health care services during the COVID-19 public health emergency.
  • To support ongoing COVID-19 emergency response efforts, there is a new effort to partner with the Massachusetts Medical Society and match volunteers based on skillsets and need. There is an immediate need for respiratory therapists and public health nurses, and interested health care professionals who are able to volunteer should sign up at MAResponds.org.
  • The state will be converting a former Boston Medical Center hospital building into a specialized care center for homeless individuals and families during the coronavirus outbreak.

Small Business

  • The federal Small Business Association’s Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program provides small businesses with working capital loans of up to $2 million to support them through COVID-19 impacts. The Small Business Association Disaster Loan Assistance Portal has been updated and the process for applying for loans has been streamlined to only two forms. Visit the SBA Disaster Assistance website for more information.
  • The Mass Manufacturing Partnership (MassMEP) is looking to assist Massachusetts manufacturers interested in retrofitting their operations to produce needed medical protective equipment. Visit here for more information. If your company wants to pursue this opportunity, please contact my office so that I can assist.

 Taxes

  • Massachusetts tax filing deadline has been extended to July 15 to conincide with the revised federal deadline. More information here

Consumer Protection

  • The Attorney General has approved two new consumer protection regulations:
    • Prohibiting creditors from engaging in methods of debt collection that can require people to leave their homes or have in-person contact, including filing new lawsuits against Massachusetts consumers, visiting their homes or places of work, or repossessing their cars, among other protections. 
  • Prohibiting price gouging of goods and services necessary for public health and safety during a declared statewide or national emergency. Previously under the state’s consumer protection law, the only existing regulation related to price gouging addressed the sale of gasoline and other petroleum products.

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